20
Jan
09

Cleansed by Fire, Part 34

For the previous installment of this story, click here

Or, visit the Cleansed By Fire portal page for comprehensive links to previous chapter installments and additional backstory and information about the novel.

Cleansed by Fire

Chapter 6, Nexus (continued)

The Sisters of the Red Sun watched their monitors and readouts impassively as they activated the plain gray shuttle with the oversized drive, which had for several days scary-sistersbeen nestling in their main hold.

They were at the location indicated on the datastrip that the then-Standish liaison had delivered, and they had minutes ago activated the sliptrans remote they had been given. The vessel off to their solarward flank had slowly gone through its prep cycle and was now orienting itself toward Earth. Its thrusters fired, with unnecessarily fierce intensity, and the unmanned ship rapidly gained speed as it left them.

“So our business now is concluded with the client Stavin,” Sarai said. Her voice was flat, but Mehrnaz was too close to her to be fooled that it lacked emotion.

“Yes. And the remaining funds were transferred as we activated the sliptrans.”

“He is now the target Stavin,” Sarai noted, as if it were an indisputable fact of public record.

“It seems so,” Mehrnaz responded. “We should be certain, however, that his actions warrant this change in relationship.”

“He was a client, and honored enough to be called the leader Stavin for his personal accomplishments.  But there was never any ‘relationship’ beyond contractual ones until he changed that. He sent the Standish decedent to us, hoping we would kill him outright, as if the one insult he paid us and his general hatred of neo sapiens was enough to warrant it.”

“Presumptuous of the client Stavin. That is true. But not in itself insulting,” Mehrnaz noted. “Amusing, actually, in its Earther ignorance.” She already knew where this conversation would end, but working through the details was important.

“He presented the Standish decedent as a gift, knowing how we must accept and use gifts,” Sarai answered. “The target Stavin knows the honor-terms of Ishmaeli, particularly hirebrands. He did not take seriously what might happen if we chose to keep the Standish decedent for a time. He gave us a gift that could not be enjoyed. He gave us poison.”

“And what does that earn for the target Stavin?” Mehrnaz asked.

“Pain,” responded Sarai.

That, at least, was good. Sarai was not blinded to the proper responses. She had not marked him for death. Her perspective had not skewed as human perspectives were so wont to do.

“But,” Sarai added, “we do not yet know what will come of our contract. We take contracts. We fulfill them. We ask few questions. But contracts can have aftermaths. I sense there is something to this task that will stain us.”

“I agree,” Mehrnaz answered, “though I hope we are both wrong.”

“We shall discover that soon enough, though it would have been better if we knew more about our recently delivered parcel,” her sister said. “Something that would give us more insight and perhaps leverage, should the target Stavin warrant more than just payment in pain.”

“We shall know more. Imminently,” Mehrnaz said with a slight grin.

“Sister, what have you done?” Sarai asked, stretching her neck forward and widening her violet eyes.

You know as well as I, Sarai, that our contract forbade tampering with the parcel or scanning it. But nothing denied us our curiosity about it, nor other means of slyly satisfying that curiosity.

“The data pirate Jordin was monitoring us and our package,” Mehrnaz said. “She tracks it and follows even as we speak.”

“We are not allowed to share details of contracts outside our immediate clan ring,” Sarai noted.

“I contracted with the lover Jordin for several months of my personal exclusivity to her,” Mehrnaz said. “That technically makes her my mate until the contract terminates, so she is of us for now.”

“You were busier than I thought during our hookah,” Sarai responded. “Why have you waited to tell me this?”

“I wished to offer you a pleasant surprise to begin the new year.”

“My thanks, sister,” Sarai said, linking her fingers with Mehrnaz’s. “So, I suppose the data pirate Jordin will be a frequent guest for some time then.”

“I suspect so. She doesn’t seem particularly busy in recent cycles with her work. You are welcome to share her when she is here.”

Sarai shook her head. “Such fare does not appeal to me these recent cycles. And our resting berth is too small for three.”

“I rather think her  tastes are more exotic than using the sleeping nets in the berth.”

“Well, then, at least I shall not be denied the comfort of sleep during rest cycles,” Sarai said with a light laugh. “And when I am awake, the hunt for the target Stavin will certainly keep my interest enough that I won’t notice any exotic noises you might make.”

***

Nothing today was as Domina had come to expect from one of Peteris Dyson’s visits; not the time of day, so close to lunchtime, nor his choice of domina-fancy1clothing or the small silver box he was carrying. And he was smiling.

“You are wearing very casual attire, Gregory,” Domina said, “and you have a gift for me. Or is it a gift from your wife in return for mine to her?”

“You mistook my wife’s tastes in lingerie, Domina. It wasn’t her color, really, and she really prefers to mark them with her own scent first.”

“Oh, dear, did I pick up the wrong pair by mistake?” she asked, putting her hand to her chest with an obvious theatrical flair. “What must she think?”

“Well, she still knows that none of my own scents are to be found in, on or around you,” Gregory retorted. “As for my attire, well, I thought today called for a less formal tone than vestments convey.”

“So, we’re friends now, Gregory?” Domina asked. “I have too many of those already, and not enough lovers.”

“I should think the reverse would be true. In any case, I haven’t declared friendship,” Gregory said, his slight grin still plastered on his face. “In both the Vatican and the UFC, the three holiest days are Christmas, Easter and the New Year. If at no other time one celebrates communion, those are the days one should.”

Gregory opened the box and held it out to Domina. Inside it, a small, globe-shaped piece of crisp, unleavened bread, with a dollop of wine suspended in the center inside a molecule-thin shell of plasz. The shape and design of the eucharista was one of the few things that the two churches did identically, although the Terran Catholic Church still referred to it as a host—going back to the days of the flat, round cracker accompanying a chalice of wine.

Domina’s eyes widened in surprise and then narrowed in suspicion.

“I promise I haven’t poisoned it, Domina. Nor put any truthteller drugs in it. It would be easier to slip such things into your water supply if I really wanted to.”

“Gregory, I trust you implicitly. But I cannot accept a consecrated host from you. Not under asylum or any other circumstances. You are the spiritual head of the UFC. Chief heretic of a vast collection of heretics. Pope Tommis gave me no promise of prior absolution for such as this.”

“And that is one of the reasons for my civilian attire, Domina, aside from the fast the vestments are too damned hot, especially with how steamy you keep your apartment. This eucharista is unblessed by me or anyone else.” Gregory closed the box and set it down between them, still smiling. “You are an ordained steward, and fully vested to bless the Lord’s Supper yourself. Do so at your leisure. I brought this to you because I suspect in your fit of buying sexual technologies, you probably forgot to supply yourself with critical spiritual items.”

“So, why, Gregory, do you still have that canary-eating grin on your face, if you aren’t here to proffer heretic-blessed hosts?”

“Because you’re no longer the only important Vatican person under our protection, Domina. If you want to continue to be special, you might want to start producing priceless information before he does. And no, I won’t tell you who he is.”

***

Within seconds of Gregory’s departure, Domina was at her lightdesk making purchases. She didn’t need anything, but after she had implanted the nanomole in her lightdesk cubicle, that was how she was able to get messages to the Nazarene and how he was able to communicate with her—though he had thus far only done so to acknowledge that the nanomole had done its job.

It took the better part of an hour to find the right kinds of purchases that she was likely to make and that had the right price, size and other parameters to create the cypher for her message.

Be warned. The UFC has someone else from the Vatican in their hands.

She was surprised when she received, almost immediately, a personal thank-you note on her terminal along with the receipt for one of her purchases. A completely false note from the shop owner that carried several cues to alert her it was actually a message from the Nazarene.

Apparently, he must have knowledge of someone who had gone missing recently from the Vatican’s graces, because once she translated the hidden message in the note, she had a name: Daniel Coxe.

What would have been more useful, Domina noted with some irritation, would be to know who the hell Daniel Coxe was.

Her irritation lessened greatly when another false thank-you note and receipt arrived from a music vendor she had just ordered from, and she realized she would have an answer soon to her question. A personal answer.

Because that second message told her: I will extract you in three weeks. Prepare.

***

future-city-01Lyseena and her admin officers hadn’t expected the Fourth Millennial Celebration to be problem-free, and true to form, it wasn’t. The disruptions and outright attacks were at least as bad as during the Grand Requiem the previous day; worse, in fact, because they were more random now.

They tried to wear us out yesterday and give us a false sense that we had weathered the storm, she thought. And now they seek to grind us down some more and leave us with no clues as to what their real goal is.

So far, only a few templars and local constables had been hurt, but there were plenty of other casualties, many of them outside the designated celebration zones.

Lyseena leaned back in her slipchair and massaged her temples, realizing that it was midday and she had better have someone bring her some food. As she got ready to key up Willem on her linkpad, an urgent Grid message displayed on her lightdesk.

FROM Stavin via Enn ::: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, but God is dead and always has been, Lyseena. I hope you kissed all your little templar admins before they went off to work today. You won’t get another chance.

Lyseena was out of her slipchair and heading for the Pit without hesitation. She hadn’t even reached the door of the admin suite when alarms started sounding and all hell broke loose.

(To read the next installment of this story, click here.)

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2 Responses to “Cleansed by Fire, Part 34”


  1. January 20, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    interesting movement. I liked the wrinkle about gifts.

  2. 2 Deacon Blue
    January 20, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    You know, until you just mentioned that, I hadn’t even noticed the theme of “gifts” running through all but the final scene in that chapter segment.

    Wish I could say I was being deep, but it’s just an accident, LOL.


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Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

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